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Ham Radio 2024

Category: Projects, Historic Technology, Ham Radio
Date: 2024-03-02

Once a ham always a ham

In 1970, I was licensed as a new, Novice ham radio operator with the callsign, WN7PGE. I spent my time communicating with Morse code on some vintage, crystal controlled equipment. When my code speed got up to the required 13 words per minute, I went to Seattle and tested for the General and Advanced class licenses. Was then assigned the callsign WA7PGE. While in Raymond during my Grays Harbor College years, I did lots of ham radio activities.

20 meter cubical quad 1971. Yup, that's me.

With marriage and new interests in 1974, ham radio went by the wayside, but when Morse code was featured in TV shows and movies, I could report that what was being sent was NOT what was being reported on the show. Where ever I went, my eye would wander to rooftop antennas, and wonder about the guy who put it up and how it is used. Once a ham, always a ham.

2024 Update

In January of this year, a not-shocking but nonetheless surprising event occurred. The Facebook group, "Old Tube Radios" grabbed my attention (once a ham, always a ham). Within hours of reviewing projects in the group, I was in the basement digging out the old family Philco and planning its restoration. As that project progressed, I thought that it deserved a good outside antenna. The thought of outside antennas moved me to think about may practical experience as a ham. Thinking about that, I looked into what it would take to re-license. The answer was that I'd need to score 75% on a 35 question exam. The code requirement was eliminated sometime in the 1990s. I found that the exams were now done with volunteer examiners who are monitored by the FCC. And indeed, the following Saturday the Bridgerland Amateur Radio Club in Logan, UT had scheduled an exam session for the next weekend. I reserved a spot, studied seriously for a few days, and learned what had changed in the past 50 years. The result was a passing score (100%), and a new license. After applying for a "vanity callsign", I am once again WA7PGE, and I am reliving my youth.

In the 70s, the most fun of the hobby was building antennas and, of course, evaluating their performance. I built antennas both for the home station and for portable and mobile operations. Antennas are a first order of business for the new station here in Utah. I installed a little J-pole antenna from Arrow Antennas for use in the 2 meter (144 mHz) and 70 cm (432 mHz) bands. I felt a bit guilty about the purchase, since I'd never purchased an antenna before. They were always home-built. But I knew I'd spend more than the $85 purchase price building it myself. So it was a done deal. It works well for getting into the Utah repeater system, for communications throughout Utah, Idaho, and parts of Nevada and Arizona. But these VHF frequencies are not where my heart is. It seems that this old ham is interested in the lower frequency bands, where repeaters are not, and one's own equipment and antennas make all the linkages needed.

The next antenna project is an off-center-fed (OCF) dipole. I duplicated the design of Dick Sander, K5QY. It's an antenna that is new to me, but the feedpoint would work well with the configuration of our residential lot. We don't have the acre and tall trees that were mine to work with years ago in Raymond. Earlier this week I had all the gear I needed and the OCF dipole was temporarily installed just 13 feet off the ground. I was ready to start working the world! Over the past two days, I've made contacts with hams from Wisconsin to California.

My contacts of the past few days

In particular, I've been attracted to the new ham activity, "Parks on the Air", and I've "hunted" hams who have set up portable operations in parks. It's been fun to do, and to look online for details about the parks themselves. In one case, I recognized that the park was one that I had visited, San Clemente State Beach. When I saw the Google photo of the trail descending to the park, I was certain that I had stopped there on the way to Oceanside, CA in 2019!

These are some of the parks I visited virtually in the past few days:

San Clemente State Beach, CA
Illahee State Park, WA
Collins Marsh and Nature Center, WI

Much has changed in 50 years, but much remains the same. I'm looking forward to projects and operations. I'm especially attracted to doing "Parks on the Air" from some of Utah's wonderful parks.

New equipment:

Icom IC-7300 HF transceiver

MFJ 939 antenna tuner

Sark100 Antenna analyser

Heil Headset

Old equipment:

J-37 telegraph key

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